ESEA is in Need of Improvement, Johnson Says
The Department of Public Instruction Thursday (June 3, 2004) released
a list of 54 Wisconsin schools identified as being "in need of
improvement" under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education
Act (ESEA), but WEAC President Stan Johnson said it will take much more
than a simple list to guarantee that every child in Wisconsin has a
"Every child deserves a great school. We all want every school
to be successful and every child to achieve high standards. But this
list is of little or no value in achieving those goals," Johnson
"It is easy to set strict and sometimes unreasonable rules, set
schools up for failure and then point fingers," Johnson said. "The
hard part is addressing the core social issues that cause some students
to struggle in school and to provide the resources schools need to meet
the needs of each and every child."
Adequate Yearly Progress
To meet the provisions of adequate yearly progress for this year,
schools and districts had to have 61% of students scoring proficient
or advanced in reading and 37% scoring proficient or
advanced in math on Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations
and Wisconsin Alternate Assessments administered in fall 2003.
Additionally, schools had to have 95% of students
participate in statewide assessments. Elementary and middle schools
needed an attendance rate of 84.9%, and high schools needed a
graduation rate of 81.8%, or schools had to show growth from the
previous year on these indicators.
Schools that missed the same performance indicator for two consecutive
years are identified for improvement. Those that receive federal
Title I funds, which are targeted to schools serving
disproportionate numbers of economically disadvantaged students,
also are subject to sanctions specified in the federal education
Benchmarks for adequate yearly progress increase next year. For
2004-05, schools must have 67.5% of students scoring proficient
or advanced in reading and 47.5% scoring proficient or
advanced in math on state tests. By the 2013-14 school year, federal
law requires that 100% of
students score proficient or advanced on state assessments.
The ESEA - called the No Child Left Behind law by the Bush administration
- "simply does not do that," Johnson said.
"The law itself is badly in need of improvement," he said.
The proven formula for making sure every school is a great school includes
small class sizes, programs to expand professional development for teachers
and education support professionals, up-to-date books and materials
aligned with new standards, and additional state and federal resources
to implement school improvement efforts focused on where students and
schools are struggling.
"The ESEA is based on a one-size-fits-all approach and emphasizes
punishment instead of providing the resources and support to address
challenges," Johnson said. "It fails to provide the financial
resources it was envisioned to provide when it was passed by Congress."
In the three federal budgets that have passed since the ESEA was enacted,
federal funding of the ESEA has fallen $17.2 billion short of promised
levels for more busing, tutoring, retraining of teachers and paraprofessionals,
and services to meet testing proficiency benchmarks. President Bush's
fiscal year 2005 budget would shortchange students and schools by another
Last month, Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager issued an
opinion finding that the federal government is requiring state governments
to spend their own money to implement the law in violation of federal
statutes and the Constitution. The opinion encourages school boards
and the state government to challenge the law in court.
In addition, after 11 years of state-imposed school district revenue
controls, Wisconsin schools are facing the enormous task of meeting
new standards for achievement while struggling to find the funds needed
to preserve even the most basic of education services, Johnson said.
Schools are being forced to lay off teachers; increase class sizes;
and cut back courses, programs and school activities.
"Wisconsin has great schools, but I don't know how we are going
to maintain that quality when schools are constantly being stripped
of resources. Although we agree with the goals of the ESEA, current
state and federal laws seem designed to set schools up for failure,"
The DPI's list of 54 schools in need of improvement includes 44 in
Milwaukee, two in Madison, three in Kenosha, three in Racine, and two
on the Menominee Indian reservation. The schools failed to achieve "adequate
yearly progress," as defined by the ESEA, for two years in a row
on one or more goals related to state test scores, graduation rates
or test participation. Although the list implies that each of these
schools is failing its children, that's not the case, Johnson said.
To achieve "adequate yearly progress," each subgroup of students
in each grade level must achieve the testing standards. Subgroups are
divided by race, disability status, English proficiency status, family
income, and migrant status.
Madison LaFollette High School's inclusion on the list, for example,
was not based on test score results but on the fact that it fell one
student short in one subcategory of the number of students
taking one specific standardized test. In other words, if one more African-American
student had taken the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the school
would not be on list.
"That points out not only the frustration of this law but the
absolute ridiculousness of using this methodology," Superintendent
Art Rainwater told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Schools sometimes make the list because of factors beyond its control,
such as student mobility and truancy.
Under the ESEA, schools that remain on the "in need of improvement"
list face a series of sanctions, including the possibilities of replacing
all or most staff, entering into a contract with a private entity to
operate the school, and submitting to a state takeover.
Although the number of Wisconsin schools on the ESEA list fell this
year from 68 to 54, officials say the list will likely grow in the future
as the government further toughens the standards.
on the ESEA
Posted June 4, 2004